the black cat bias

We all know the old wives' tale..."never let a black cat cross your path." But where did that come from? And why shouldn't we?

Do cats bring bad luck? And are they really the last to be adopted? The Black Cat Bias.

Do cats bring bad luck? And are they really the last to be adopted? The Black Cat Bias.

the origin of the bad luck curse

Black cats started to get the shaft in Europe during the middle ages. Most people were paranoid and hysterical about witches and witchcraft during that time. Poor old ladies (with cats, some of which were black), were accused of being witches, and their cats were guilty of witchcraft by association. People started to believe that the black cats were actually the witches who'd transformed themselves, and this notion fueled the Salem witch trials in America. Some believed that a witch could transform herself into a black cat nine times...which is thought to have been the origin of the "cats have nine lives" saying. Still today, black cats are heavily associated with Halloween and spooky goings-on. For many in Western culture, a black cat crossing paths with a human signifies misfortune and death.

Huffington Post recently broke down the bad news about black cats.

bad luck for black cats

• black cats have a very difficult time being adopted

• some shelters offer reduced adoption prices or free spaying and neutering for black cats to encourage adoption

• 13% of Americans are superstitious about a black cat crossing their path

• some organizations and shelters do not allow adoptions of black cats during the month of October for fear of animal cruelty

• a Nevada shelter put on an "Adopt Your Own Mini Panther" campaign to persuade people to adopt black cats, and all 18 black cats they had were adopted

• black cats have the lowest adoption rate and the highest euthanasia rate

black cat fun facts

• there are 22 breeds of cats that can have solid black coats

• the Bombay is the most common black cat breed, a breed also characterized by intelligence, playfulness, and tendency to interact and seek attention

• the percentage of male and female black cats is slightly skewed toward the male gender

• the high melanin pigment in black cats causes most of them to have yellow eyes

• in many other cultures, a black cat is thought to bring good fortune and prosperity

the good news

As awareness is raised about the black cat adoption situation, more and more people are coming to shelters specifically requesting a black cat. Since these animal lovers know the struggle black cats face, they are helping the cause. Pawsome!

We recently worked with one of our favorite black cat clients, Jacopo. If you take a look at this outtake from our time together, you'll see the smart, playful, gorgeous "mini panther" that he is.

Tell me about your black cat!

A back cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere. -Groucho Marx

art studio holds "paint a pet" fundraiser for the humane society

I enjoyed an evening with some of my best gal pals last week for "Moms' Night Out" hosted by our local MOMS Club. We all brought some food and wine to share and met up at Be...An Artist, a local art studio recently opened by artist Sandra Marshall. I was excited to do something different...slap some paint onto a canvas, but it was even more fun than I expected. While we were there, Sandra mentioned that the studio would be hosting a "Paint a Pet" fundraiser for the Arizona Humane Society, and my ears perked up. 

Our MOMS Club had an awesome time at Be...An Artist.  photos courtesy of Sandra Marshall, Be...An Artist.

Our MOMS Club had an awesome time at Be...An Artist. photos courtesy of Sandra Marshall, Be...An Artist.

So a few days later, I found myself back in the studio with Sandra and her fabulous team. When the Arizona Human Society's Waggin' Wheels Mobile Adoption Wagon pulled up, the small crowd watched in excitement. For, inside were not only furry models for the budding artists, but adoptable models, at that. Once the wagon was parked in front of the studio, the side rolled up to reveal a wall of adorable critters in see-through kennels. The onlookers released a collective "Awwwww..." The back of the wagon said "NEW FAMILY MEMBERS ON BORD," which totally melted my heart.

The crowd gathered outside the Waggin' Wheels Wagon.

The crowd gathered outside the Waggin' Wheels Wagon.

The hopeful pups check out the crowd, hoping to become the newest addition to a great family.

The hopeful pups check out the crowd, hoping to become the newest addition to a great family.

Inside, Sandra and her team had set up canvases for potential adopters as well as for birthday party-goers. What a great occasion for an animal-loving tween to have a party! Sandra started the art lesson by teaching everyone how to draw the animal they wanted to paint. Step-by-step, she showed them how to form the shapes the would somehow come together into a masterpiece. What I love about Sandra is her attitude. Though she is an accomplished artist, she instructed both "spirited" moms and young animal lovers on how to create a painting to be proud of. Throughout the process, she occasionally asks "are you happy with it?" If you say you're not, she'll ask what you're not happy with and help you find a solution. Remarkable patience.

Sandra helps the artists every step of the way.

Sandra helps the artists every step of the way.

Back outside at the wagon, I spoke to Megan Merrimac, Mobile Adoptions Coordinator for the Arizona Humane Society. I asked her about the Waggin' Wheels program. She explained that since the program's inception in July of 2014, they have had over 250 adoptions out of the wagon. They bring 6-8 dogs and a couple of cats each time they take the wagon out, which is three or four times a week. Sometimes they attend events, and sometimes they just hit the road. I asked Megan if the pets had to meet any special requirements in order to board the Waggin' Wheels Wagon. She said that she always make sure the animals are good with kids. That seems understandable, as the wagon was attracting small humans like bees to honey. 

Who could resist these cute faces?

Who could resist these cute faces?

At Be...An Artist that day, AZHS adopted out four animals. Pretty awesome! And Sandra donated a portion of the proceeds to the cause. We love that!

Be...An Artist has a wide variety of sessions and events geared toward children, teens, and adults.  They even offer summer camps and classes for people with special needs. It's a great place to have a birthday party, as I was lucky to witness first-hand. I think my art-loving daughter, Campbell, would absolutely love to have her next birthday party there. 

The party-goers were pleased with their masterpieces.  photo courtesy of Sandra Marshall, Be...An Artist.

The party-goers were pleased with their masterpieces. photo courtesy of Sandra Marshall, Be...An Artist.

Have you been to Be...An Artist, yet? Or if you're not in the Phoenix area, is there anything like this where you live?

View the Be...An Artist calendar of events.

Connect with Be...An Artist on Facebook.

View the Arizona Humane Society's Waggin' Wheels Mobile Adoption Vehicle calendar.

Connect with AZHS on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+.

understanding ear-tipping in feral cats

Cutting off a portion of a cat's ear? To many, this may sound cruel and unusual. But it's a thing–a good thing, in fact. Ear-tipping or ear-notching helps protect the feral cat population.

what is a feral cat?

A feral cat is an outdoor cat that has not been socialized to people. For this reason, feral cats are often skittish around humans and are not adoptable. They live and thrive in all types of communities, from the big city to open farms and live full, healthy lives with the same life span as pet cats. Along with pet cats, they are protected under state anti-cruelty laws.

If found young enough, feral kittens have a chance to be socialized and become adoptable, but rarely does an adult feral cat appreciate close interactions with humans. 

The main problem with feral cats is population control. The population can only be controlled through spaying and neutering. 

how are feral cats spayed and neutered?

Thanks to nonprofit groups such as Alley Cat Allies, we have a chance to keep the feral cat population at a manageable level through Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs. How does this work? It's a three-step process;

1. the feral cat is humanely trapped

2. the feral cat is spayed/neutered and ear-tipped

3. the feral cat is returned to it's community

When feral cats are spayed and neutered, not only does it control the population, but it also eliminates the mating behaviors that bother humans in the community. The cats are better-accepted and can live in peace and harmony. 

what is ear-tipping, and why is it necessary?

Ear-tipping is a process by which the tip of one (usually the left) of the feral cat's ear is removed. It is done under general anesthesia at the same time that the cat is spayed/neutered. It heals very quickly, causing minimal pain and recovery.

Feral cats who have been ear-tipped are easily identifiable, even from a distance.   photo credits:,,,

Feral cats who have been ear-tipped are easily identifiable, even from a distance.

photo credits:,,,

Ear-tipping is effective in helping to identify a spayed or neutered and vaccinated feral cat. One can easily see at a distance that the cat has already been "taken care of," thus eliminating the inevitable further trappings and surgeries. Since cats show no outward sign of being spayed or neutered, it's important for identification purposes. If we can immediately recognize the the cat has already been spayed/neutered, they will not be traumatized by repeated trappings. This also helps preserve the resources of groups that help feral cats. Alley Cat Allies says, "feral cats may interact with a variety of caregivers, veterinarians, and animal control personnel in their lives, and so immediate visual identification is necessary to prevent an unnecessary second trapping and surgery."

other options just don't cut it

Other ways to identify feral cats have been explored, but deemed ineffective. These methods include:

• collars: As the cat grows or gains weight, a collar may become too tight, subjecting the cat to wounds or slow strangulation. There is also the chance that the collar may become caught on something, causing injury or death. Or, the collar may just fall of, so the spayed/neutered cat can no longer be identified as such.

• ear tags: Aside from simply being bothersome to the cat, ear tags may become infected, tear the cats ear, or fall off.

• microchipping: Though microchipping may provide us with information about a feral cat, if done alone, it does not allow for visual identification, so the cat may be trapped repeatedly.

• tattooing: A tattoo is often not visible until a cat has been trapped and anesthetized. 

This is what ear-notching looks like.   photo source:

This is what ear-notching looks like.

photo source:

Alley Cat Allies is a group highly-recognized for helping the feral cat population. They practice ear-tipping of the left ear, but some feral cats may have their right ear tipped or may have an ear notch. Ear-notching–in contrast to ear-tipping–is when a small triangular piece is clipped from the cat's ear. This is usually done at the tip of the ear, but may sometimes be seen in the side of the ear, instead. Ear-notching is not as widely accepted because it may be more easily-confused with an accidental battle-wound. 

So next time you see a cat with it's ear tipped or notched, wave from afar and know that someone has cared enough to help protect him.

Do you have a feral cat presence in your area? Have you noticed ear-tipping? 


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ready for a furever home: the "lost our home" cats

Each week, the littles and I volunteer at the cat room at our local PetSmart taking care of cats available for adoption through Lost Our Home Pet Foundation. For the most part, the littles get to play with and cuddle the cats while I scoop litter boxes, but I'm not bitter. I get an occasional cuddle, too. We see cats come in and out, and some stick around longer than others. We get to know those better, and sometimes we just can't understand why they wouldn't be snatched up immediately. I thought I'd highlight a few of the regulars in hopes they might find a forever home. Check out these sweethearts:

Calypso is a two-year-old dilute calico female. She's absolutely gorgeous and has been hanging out with us since mid-January. She was found pregnant in a feral colony. It was obvious that she didn't belong there, so she was moved to a foster home where she had four beautiful kittens. Her kittens have been adopted, and now sweet Calypso is looking for her chance. She loves cat trees (both for hanging out and scratching), and she loves to be brushed. She gets along with kids and most other animals, so would be a beautiful addition to most homes. 


Keegan is a one-year-old female flame point siamese. "Keegan" means "small flame," so she is named after her beautiful siamese markings. A nice couple found her as a stray and cared for her for several months before bringing her to Lost Our Home to find her a permanent home. Keegan is "all siamese," meaning she's talkative, social, and loves heights. She has been in the cat room since mid-November! We can't believe it! 



Lightening is a two-year-old black and white female domestic short hair. She is named after the unique shape of her tail, which is charmingly crookedish. She is very social and sweet. She'll nuzzle and curl up in your lap. She has been in the cat room since mid-December, but has been with Lost Our Home her whole life, waiting for the right family to come for her. She'd love nothing more than to sit on your lap and cuddle, if you have room for this sweet girl. She won't let you down. 



If you're local, please stop by and pay them a visit. They would love to snuggle with you!

Click here for Lost Our Home Pet Foundation's adoption application.